By Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s Entertainment Media Strategist
GLAAD today released its annual Where We Are on TV report; a comprehensive review of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) primetime characters in the 2015-16 television season. This season marks the 20th year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBT characters on television and this year, for the first time, we have counted LGBT characters on original series which have premiered on the streaming content providers Amazon, Hulu and Netflix.
Of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime scripted programming in the coming year, 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There were an additional 35 recurring LGB characters. The highest percentage of LGBT characters GLAAD has ever counted on primetime scripted broadcast programming was 4.4% in the 2012-13 season.
The number of regular LGBT characters counted on cable increased from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58. For the first time, GLAAD counted LGBT characters on original series that premiered on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. GLAAD found 43 series regulars and 16 recurring LGBT characters across 23 series.
“Each of us lives at the intersection of many identities and it’s important that television characters reflect the full diversity of the LGBT community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO & President of GLAAD. “It is not enough to just include LGBT characters; those characters need to be portrayed with thought and care to accurately represent an often-tokenized community.”
- There are no transgender characters counted on primetime broadcastprogramming, while only three recurring trans characters were counted on cable (2%). Streaming series boast the highest percentage of trans characters at 7% (4) with two notably being series leads. Of the seven trans characters counted, only one was a transgender man.
- Bisexual representations rose on both broadcast and cable this year with a notable increase (from 10 to 18) in the number of bisexual men appearing on cable programs. Unfortunately, many of these characters still fall into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people.
- With 73% of the LGBT characters appearing on streaming series being white and 71% on cable, it is clear that all three programming platforms need to include more racially diverse LGBT characters. Overall racial diversity is moving in the right direction with 33% (287) of 881 regular characters counted on broadcast programming being people of color, which is a six-point increase from last year.
- GLAAD found that 16% (145) of regular characters on broadcast programming will be Black, the highest percentage since GLAAD began compiling comprehensive racial data 11 years ago. However, Black women remain significantly underrepresented with only 59 of those characters being female.
- This year, 43% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of three percentage points from last year but still greatly under-represents women in the population.
- For the first time in two years, the percentage of regular characters depicted as living with a disability on broadcast programming has dropped, down to 0.9% from 1.4% reported last year. Between broadcast and cable, there is only one recurring character who is depicted as HIV-positive (Oliver on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder).
GLAAD’s annual Where We Are On TV report not only propels national conversations about LGBT representation but informs GLAAD’s own advocacy within the television industry. GLAAD uses this yearly data to create a clearer picture of the stories and images being presented by television networks, and to encourage networks to include diverse LGBT representations within their programming.